The Legend of Zelda series is one of gaming’s most beloved franchises. After nearly 30 years the series has 19 main titles, a host of spinoffs, and just as many remakes. The original Legend of Zelda for the NES was a groundbreaking game and reshaped the action-adventure series as a whole. The Legend of Zelda games continues to smash through our expectations with its newest installment The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But, the Zelda series isn't perfect.
Anyone who has ever played the game can speak to its well-crafted overworlds, wonderfully fun stories, and complex dungeons. The games are also unique in that they offer gamers puzzles that range from simplistic to challenging. Sometimes, entire dungeons are centered around one giant puzzle. Many of these puzzles are memorable and exciting, while other falls flat. Some still haunt the nightmares of Zelda fans.
When Zelda is at its finest, the games can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. But sometimes, the games fail outright, and offer up puzzle design so bad it will make you scream. Below is a list of 15 examples of these poorly crafted puzzles that are scattered throughout the series. These puzzles are frustrating, unreasonably fair, or just downright tedious. They suck the life and soul out of any Zelda game and leave a bad taste in our mouths. Even just talking about them can bring back those sour memories. Try not to get too frustrated.
Spoilers ahead. You have been warned.
15 Breath of the Wild: Myahm Agana shrine
This little puzzle comes straight out of the newest Zelda title. The Myahm Agana shrine, like many of the shrines in Breath of the Wild, has a single puzzle for you to solve. It’s a simple tilt maze. A ball gets placed in the center, and you must navigate the ball through the maze and into the goal. Except you have to use motion controls. We all know how fun those can be. The goal isn’t even attached to the maze itself. Not only do you have to solve the maze, but you also have to then try and hurl the ball onto the small platform and hope it gets into the hole instead of rolling off the sides or completely missing in the first place! The maze isn’t even that hard. It’s trying to chuck that silly ball into the hole that’s the real issue. Some players simply flip the whole maze upside down, but that just get’s rid of the maze. You still have to try to toss the ball into the goal.
14 Twilight Princess: The Sacred Grove
Most Zelda games let you stroll right up to the Master Sword and grab it. Some offer a little bit of a challenge before you get there, like a maze or a fetch quest. Twilight Princess decided to take this simple task to a whole new level by placing an obnoxious puzzle before the Master Sword to block the player's way. When you approach the grove, you have to howl a song as Wolf Link. Two guardian statues come to life and challenge you. The ground beneath you turns into a series of floating, square, islands. Both statues move to new squares and face you. Your goal? To get both statues back to their pedestals. The problem? These statues move as you do. Both statues are standing in different positions. Not only do you have to navigate these floating islands, but you have to try and maneuver both statues at once. The worst part is, they don’t always go in the same direction as you, or even each other! You can go left, one will follow left and the goes right! It all depends on which way they are facing when you move. I only managed to solve this one by accident. It’s a major pain and very easy to mess up.
When you approach the grove that houses the Master Sword, you have to howl a song as Wolf Link. Two guardian statues come to life and challenge you. The ground beneath you turns into a series of floating, square, islands. Both statues move to new squares and face you. Your goal? To get both statues back to their pedestals. The problem? These statues move as you do. Both statues are standing in different positions. Not only do you have to navigate these floating islands, but you have to try and maneuver both statues at once. The worst part is, they don’t always go in the same direction as you, or even each other! You can go left, one will follow left and the goes right! It all depends on which way they are facing when you move. I only managed to solve this one by accident. It’s a major pain and very easy to mess up.
13 Skyward Sword: Sky Keep
This is one of those dungeons that also acts a puzzle. More specifically, a sliding block puzzle. Most people are familiar with the concept. You have nine spots and eight blocks. You can only move one block at a time and only if it is adjacent to the free space. I've never known anyone who actually likes these time wasters. In Sky Keep, all eight rooms are controlled by panels with this puzzle. There are only a handful of these panels scattered throughout the dungeon. To make matters worse, whatever room you are using the control panel in freezes and can’t be moved! Plus, each room only has a one to three entrances, and some of those are blocked by bars! It’s a headache wrapped in a mess with a rage quit on the way. Plus, you have to try and collect the three pieces of the Triforce that are placed in three of the eight rooms. Good. Freaking. Luck.
12 Ocarina of Time: Princess Ruto
Oh, princess. Why couldn’t you just stay home? One of the dungeons in Ocarina of Time is the inside of a whale! That eats you. You find yourself in its belly because Princess Ruto of the Zoras managed to get eaten first and you have to go in after her. Except, once you find her, she turns out to be the biggest, brattiest creature in all of Hyrule. She refuses to return with you and runs off after insulting you, only to immediately fall down a hole. Once you finally catch up with her, she says, “You’re that worried about me? Then I will give you the honor of carrying me!” So now, not only do you have to try and navigate the dungeons puzzles, you have to try and figure out how to do them while carrying her. It’s a whole extra puzzle onto itself. Your reward? She gets herself kidnapped. By the mini-boss. When you save her? She yells at you for being late and then turns around to declare that she will marry you. Even Link finds this creepy. Have fun.
11 Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: Death Mountain
Zelda II was a poor follow-up to the first game. It couldn’t figure out if it wanted to be a top-down or a side-scroller. Most of the level designs for the game were poor enough, but the maze in Death Mountain was downright bad. The Death Mountain Maze was a series of platforms that were connected by tunnels marked as black squares on the overworld map. Except, there was no way to tell which tunnels were connected until you went through them. What was even worse was that you could only see a few of the platforms at a time, which made getting lost extremely easy. This place puts the Lost Woods to shame. Forget about trying to find your way forward, you won't even know how to get back. It has to be solved through a lot of trial and error. I can only imagine how many kids ended up chucking their NES controllers out of pure frustration.
10 Phantom Hourglass: The Sacred Crest
There aren’t many true sequels in the Zelda franchise. As a direct sequel to Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass had a lot to prove. Even more so because it was released for the DS. But the Sacred Crest puzzle was so poorly designed that for most, the only way to solve it was to get frustrated enough that they closed the DS. At some point, the game tells you to “Press the Sacred Crest against the sea chart to transfer it.” It displays the Sacred Crest on a map on the top screen. The bottom screen has the map you can edit with your stylus. Most assume they have to mark the map. Except what the game actually wants you to do is to physically close the DS! While I didn’t play Phantom Hourglass, I did play a game with the same puzzle. Believe me, finding the solution because I rage quit only made me angrier. While it might be a clever little trick, closing your DS to progress is the exact opposite reason why most of us close our DS in the first place.
9 Link’s Awakening: Turtle Rock
Turtle Rock is by no means a bad dungeon. The map is in the shape of a turtle! There are several points throughout the dungeon where you have to bomb a crack in the wall to proceed. Fine. This is pretty common in Zelda games. The cracks themselves are hard to see because of the color scheme, but not impossible. The slightly darker shade of red on the already dark red is not the best design choice. However, there is one wall that you have to bomb that has no such indication. There are no markings. No clues. Just you and a near-impossible struggle to figure out how to proceed. I honestly wouldn't fault anyone for looking up the solution to this one. This is not how you make puzzles Nintendo!
8 Windwaker: Ghost Ship Chart
The Ghost Ship in Windwaker can actually be quite fun. The main issue is getting there in the first place. The ship disappears every time you approach it. Not only that, but it only appears on a specific lunar phase. How do you solve this problem? With the Ghost Ship Chart. Where is it? Who knows! You get exactly one clue as to its whereabouts, and that is from a Fishman who tells you, “If you use the treasure that’s hidden on that island there, the thing that vanishes as soon as you get near it... it won’t vanish anymore. You know… IT!” Talk about vague. Additionally, he only gives you the clue when you are next to Diamond Steppe Island. That's where the map is hidden in the first place! So, without looking it up, you have to spend hours sailing around the vast ocean and pray you stumble across the correct island to find this stupid map. Pass!
7 Majora’s Mask: Stone Tower Temple Mirror Room
Actually, it’s pretty much any puzzle that requires the mirror shield. But this room is particularly egregious. What you have to do is use the mirror shield’s to shine light onto another mirror. After several seconds, the mirror begins to glow and releases a new column of light. From there, you have to run into the new column and hit yet another mirror in order to complete the puzzle. These columns don’t last forever. They disappear after a few seconds. So you have to move fast. Now, try doing all of this in a room with constantly respawning enemies who, with one hit, can force you to start all over again. Oh, and remember, the whole game is freaking timed! Take too long, and you have to restart from the very beginning, and I don’t mean the beginning of the dungeon. Once again, this isn't a hard puzzle. It's just obnoxious to complete.
6 Link’s Awakening: Face Shrine
This old Game Boy game is one of the Zelda classics. Too bad it has already ended up on our list twice. However, the Face Shrine has a puzzle that is simply unforgivable. The shrine, predictably, is filled with locked doors. They close as soon as you enter the room, signaling the need to meet a condition. Most require a key or for you to defeat an enemy in order to get through them. One does not. How do you unlock this door? Why, throw a pot at it, of course. Isn’t that obvious? No! The only real clue you get is that the only thing in the room are six pots and some pillars. Nothing in the game says that tossing a pot at the door will open it. Heck, most are more likely to try bombing it. Again, this is another puzzle where you will have to ask for help or hope you get mad enough to start randomly chucking things at the door. I'm sensing a pattern.
5 Twilight Princess: Hyrule Castle
Ok, not the entire castle. Just one lamp lighting puzzle. Most of these puzzles aren’t bad. They are actually pretty straight forward. Light all the lamps and you get the prize. There is a little variety thrown in with the occasional lamp that lowers or raises a platform. However, there is one lamp puzzle that made me want to pull my hair out. You come across it near the end of the dungeon. It is a series of four lamps. Each one goes out after a different length of time. So, not only do you have to light the lamps in the correct order, you have to do it within a very, very small window of time. The only way to go fast enough is if you roll. If you run out of oil, you have to back track and solve a different lamp puzzle just to get back. Oh, and did I mention that every time you enter the room a bunch of keese attack when you light the first lamp? It's not like you can just skip this puzzle either. You need to complete it to progress.
4 Skyward Sword: Silent Realm
There are four of these realms. They are basically big mazes combined with a fetch quest. First of all, just getting into these places is a pain. You have to play Link’s harp in time with the rhythm. Since this is a Wii game, that means you have to use the motion controls (because motion controls are so much fun). Mess up, and you have to start again. Once inside you have to collect all the sacred tears and get back to the starting position. These are all located in familiar places, but the game developers randomly placed gates throughout the map that weren't there before. Plus the place is filled with guardians. You have no weapons, no armor, and it is a one hit KO. The guardians instantly aggro as soon as you start. Some can even go through walls! They go back to sleep once you collect a tear, but it starts a countdown timer. If the time runs out, they wake up and come after your butt. They also wake up if you get spotted or fall into the water. Dying means starting all over again. It is just a giant heart attack and an even larger pain.
3 Ocarina of Time: Sliding Ice Blocks
In reality, it should be every ice block puzzle in any Zelda game, because boy do these things sucks. They are tedious, repetitious, obnoxious, time wasters! For some reason, Nintendo loves these things. These puzzles are almost universally hated. When it came to picking the worst offender, for me, it was a toss up between the ones in Twilight's Snowpeak Ruins or those in Ocarina’s Ice Cavern. The Ice Cavern won out in the end. Basically, you are on the ice trying to push an ice block into the correct position in order to solve the puzzle. Except the icy floor is slippery and you have to climb onto the ice block, which is also slippery. Sliding off is easy, and maneuvering is a total pain. Oh, did I mention the pitfalls? If you fall in, you take damage. Not to mention, that if a block falls in, you get to start all over again. It can make for a handy reset or a sob story depending on your luck.
2 Breath Of The Wild: Mirro Shaz Shrine
I feel sorry for anyone who does this one early on. The entire shrine is basically a game of golf. Time lock a ball, smash it a few times to build up kinetic energy, and then unfreeze it so it can go flying into the goal. Except the goal is on a tiny island in the middle of the water. The first (and only mandatory) hole isn’t hard. Frustrating, but easy enough to solve. The second one has freaking pillars in the way! So you have to try and hit the ball in between the stupid pillars! It's not like aiming these balls is the easiest thing in the world. That, and because of the weapon durability system, your weapons can (and absolutely will) break in this shrine. I wasted more than half my weapons trying to solve this! No chest is worth the heartache or the wasted weapons.
1 Ocarina Of Time: The Entire Freaking Water Temple
Oh, yeah. You knew this was coming. The Water Temple in Ocarina is arguably the worst dungeon in the entire Zelda franchise. It is centered around raising and lowering the water level to get to the different areas and find the hidden chests. The chests are hidden in the worst places possible and trying to get through the dungeon has reduced many children to tears. When I played this as a kid, I ended up falling off of a platform and got so badly stuck that I couldn’t raise the water level at all. It left me stranded, and I ended up having to restart my entire game. As in, erase the file. Now, it is possible that I just couldn’t find the correct switch to raise the water, but the fact that they were so hard to find the first place is unforgivable. Most of the Water Temples in the Zelda series aren’t great, but this one takes the cake.